November 24, 2004

The B-List: Hollywood's Two Left Feet

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Why do movies about dancing have to be so horrible? Is there some sort of secret contract that Hollywood producers sign with directors and actors to ensure that any movie having anything to do with professional dancing will suck? All I can say is thank God I just get to bitch about this rather than seeing any actual movie.

A few weeks ago Shall We Dance came out starring hottie Richard Gere and the bootylicious Jennifer Lopez, plus Susan Sarandon to make every woman over the age of 40 feel good. Right away there are several clues that this movie is going to suck, aside from the inclusion of dancing. When was the last time Richard Gere was in a really successful blockbuster movie that didn’t co-star Julia Roberts? Exactly, Chicago. And what was the last movie that J. Lo was in that didn’t cause me to want to rip out my own eyeballs? Any brain cells that I possess which are that old have thankfully been killed off in various ways. Then there’s the premise: Do I really care about middle-aged people and how they need to spice up their draggy marriages? Nope.

So what’s the point of this movie? To take money from couples consisting of women who insist that Susan Sarandon still looks good and men who want to see close-ups of J. Lo’s shaking derriere, apparently. The plot pretends to examine the life of Joe Wall Street and his growing discontent about his boring, repetitive, passionless life. If this were actually true I might have some respect for this film, but it’s just gratuitous Hollywood crap shined up to attract viewers. I don’t think anyone under the age of 30 was stupid enough to see this flick. Well, I’m sure someone could prove me wrong, but since admitting to seeing this movie would be admitting stupidity, I’m going to assume it’s not going to happen.

Perhaps I’m being too cruel to dancing movies in general and this movie in particular. So let’s look at some more examples and see the quality level of each. Just this past year marked the release of the highly touted Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, a sequel made with no brain but a big advertising budget. Because that’s just what every fan wants: crappy sequels that taint the quality and memory of the original. You’d think that after The Matrix and Star Wars debacles studio execs would have figured this out, but no. Today it seems that every studio movie is made with a sequel option built in to qualify the lack of story and/or entertainment in the first as the true ending has yet to happen. Plus sequels make gobs of stinking money. Actors now regularly sign agreements to star in any number of sequels before the original movie has even been shot. What the hell was Sela Ward thinking?

A few years ago I know I was enraptured with Vanessa L. Williams in Dance With Me. That one really cuts to the quick. I mean, they had Puerto Rican heartthrob singer/dancer Chayanne and it was still horrible. I think the jinx came when Vanessa Williams added the L to her name for that splash of serious actress legitimacy. As Jennifer L. Hewitt can attest, it’s a death knoll. And after having a few kids, Ms. Williams is still dead sexy, but no amount of make-up gets rid of those stretch marks that inch out from under short skirts. Shudder. All I could think whenever Kris Kristofferson was on screen was that he would be better off going back to Blade basics and offing some vampires.

And who could forget Center Stage, that heart-warming account of promiscuous, bulimic ballerinas? The dancing was incredible because everyone was a real ballerina and whatever the male form of that is. Unfortunately I don’t think any of them had ever acted before. Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows have more soul and expression than any of the kids. Though it was fun to see Olympic gold medallist Ilia Kulik prance around. You just know his agent told him it was his big moment to capitalize on his fame and this part would launch his American movie career. Yeah, too bad that didn’t work out.

For some reason, dancing has caught on in Hollywood as a sure-fire movie formula, right up there with comic books. And there are movies involving dancing that don’t suck like the above ones. Moulin Rouge had tons of dancing and it makes me slightly light-headed just to think of how awesome it is. Of course, it’s a musical, so maybe the trick is to have singing with the dancing; seemed to work for Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. I’d like to see some more singing to go with the dancing since I don’t think dance has managed to make it on its own as a movie genre.

Especially since in this article I’ve been selective enough to leave out great dancing movies such as Strictly Ballroom and The Company that would make it harder for me to prove my point.

Archived article by Sue Karp
Sun Staff Writer